Papal Infallibility in the Orthodox Churches

I have a question about papal infallibility and the Orthodox Churches. If I remember correctly, the Orthodox Churches generally reject papal infallibility and infallibility in general. They seem to rely more heavily on tradition. I am not Orthodox so I wouldn’t know, but please correct me if I am wrong!

But my question is, was there ever a time prior to the Great Schism where the Orthodox Church did accept the concept of infallibility, even if it wasn’t called that? One of my primary objections to infallibility (which I have even as a Catholic) is that the tradition of the Church is the primary reason Catholics are called to believe it. It is said that it has ALWAYS been the tradition of the Church dating to the first Apostles. But, the Orthodox Churches say no, and obviously those churches are just as old. So who is right? The reason it’s so important is because, in either case, the Church may have the authority, but they may NOT have infallibility authority. I am not saying I know either way; I am just saying that the possibility is there if there truly has always been a difference in tradition.

I would love to hear from both Orthodox supporters and Catholic supporters. For me, it is truly one of the most important “stumbling blocks” to my Catholic faith. Thanks in advance!

I struggled with the issue of infalliblity for about a year. I would spend hours everyday reading the Early Church Fathers, and arguments from both Orthodox Christians and Papal Catholics trying to discern the truth. In the end I concluded that the Orthodox faith is correct to argue that papal infallibility is never explicitly spelled out, but I also saw that Catholics are correct in pointing out that it definitely seems to be suggested, and several times at that.

In the end I concluded that the history regarding papal infallibility alone isn’t enough to resolve the issue, so I turned to philosophy, prayer, and thought about what I would expect Christ’s church to look like.

Thank you very much for sharing your experiences! After having read quite a bit from early Church fathers, I agree with your assessment. What I find interesting is that you still chose to join the Catholic Church despite this problem. Why didn’t you choose another “apostolic” church, such as an Orthodox chuch, that doesn’t believe in this teaching?

The Church is infallible and was always considered infallible.
In my opinion, Pope infallibility details on how Catholic Church decided to administer it.
Some protestants try to suggest something like “only the Pope can meditate and create doctrines” or “the Pope can say whatever he wants as doctrine…” but is not the case.
Anyway, the faith is the one handed from the apostoles, nothing was cut nothing was added by doctrines; doctrines defines and explains with a little more insight. This little more insight have created schisms in the Church

No one is saying that.

And Orthodox members would say no, their tradition has ALWAYS been that papal infallibility is not real.

You’d be surprised how many non-Catholics make that misrepresentation about the Catholic teaching - Protestant, Orthodox, and what-not.

And Orthodox members would say no, their tradition has ALWAYS been that papal infallibility is not real.

Yes, the Church as a whole is infallible, not any one person. One of the greatest misrepresentations of the Catholic teaching on “papal infallibility” is that when the Pope exercises the infallibility of the extraordinary magisterium, he and he alone possesses infallibility. That is not true. The infallibility of the ordinary magisterium and the sensus fidei is also present during the Pope’s exercise of the infallibility of the extraordinary magisterium.


Orthodox don’t really have a concept of infallibility. We don’t say that ecumenical councils are, or any bishop is, or that anything has ever been considered so.

The Church can only teach infallibly what has always been present in the deposit of the faith. It can grow in its understanding of that deposit of the faith and therefore bring about clarification, but that deposit of faith must always remain the same.
The pope is in charge of leading the Church. All are to be obedient to him in faith and morals and in respect. He is infallible in and by himself in the areas of faith and morals when he speaks ex cathedra; that is, when he speaks for the universal Church, from the authority of Peter, with the clear indication that what he is to say is to be held infallible. He also speaks infallibly in an “ordinary” manner when he affirms a teaching that has always been held by the Church (i.e., Pope John Paul II reaffirmed two thousand years of Christianity when he stated that the ordination of women is not possible since it is not within the “deposit of the faith.”). Bishops share in this infallibility when they teach in union with the pope.

I am curious to know why there is no reference to looking to God’s Word for your answer? This is my first login to this site and this question intrigued me. I was very disappointed to see that people turned to “philosophy, the church Fathers etc…” for their answers. I have little to no experience with practicing catholics or their religion, but should these answers not be simply sought out in the bible?

I would think verses like Romans 3:23 - For ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God would mean that even popes a re sinners and therefore fallible.

In addition, what about Galatians 3:22 - But the scripture hath concluded ALL under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given unto them that might believe

And finally 1 John 1:8 - If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

How does catholicism reconcile these verses with papal infallibility…actually I’m going to look that term up for a sec to see if I can find something out…
ok my research shows that the dogma of papal infallibility was only instituted in 1870 by Pope Pius lX.

If possible can someone give me possible biblical verse references to look up what papal infallibility is based on? Thank you!

The Orthodox and the Catholics both believe in the same thing with infallibility. That is, the Church is infallible. The Catholic understanding of this is that all this rests on the Pope. The Orthodox on the other hand believe that a consensus of the entire Church is what gives the mark of infallibility. That is why Ecumenical Councils are infallible, because it is accepted by everyone and thus making it Ecumenical. This is rooted in Scripture in the First Council of Jerusalem where it was a council together who decided on the crucial issue of whether to apply Judaic traditions to Gentile converts to Christianity or not. Also St. Luke writes the word “homothumadon” a lot. It means “with one accord” or “with one mind”. So if every Christian is in agreement “being in one mind” then it is a sign of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit among all believers. Also everything must be put to the test against the teaching of the Fathers. It means the Orthodox do not introduce new dogma that would threatten to put someone today in hell for not believing in it, but gives everyone a free pass. For example, St. Francis of Assisi or St. Thomas Aquinas doesn’t have to believe about Papal Infallibility and Supremacy. But today it is a mortal sin to do so. St. Paul certainly didn’t believe that St. Peter was infallible.

Infallibility does not rest on one person, even among the Apostles. While the Apostles themselves were pretty much considered infallible by their stature in the Church and their witness to the life of Christ on earth, one Apostle cannot contradict another in teaching.

As I said in my previous post, history regarding infallibility ALONE didn’t persuade me, but this isn’t the only factor upon which I based my decision. I also looked into:

  1. The philosophical and theological traditions of each faith. I found that the Roman Catholic was more substantial. This one was probably the most persuasive for me, being a student of philosophy. I found a moral system that I couldn’t argue against.

  2. The fruits of each faith. This one is not a logically sound argument, but there is something to be said for the fact that the Catholic Church has a much larger presence and influence in the world.

  3. I feel more in place/ at peace in the Catholic faith. Regardless of my great respect and admiration for the Divine Liturgy and Eastern tradition, I never felt that way in Orthodox churches.

  4. Even only considering the issue of papal infallibility, history didn’t prove it to me, but it also didn’t disprove it. I could honestly see where both sides were coming from. if I had based my decision solely on this factor I wouldn’t have joined either, since neither persuaded me.

I know that the two following verses are a basis for many Catholics belief in the infallibility of the Pope. He is in succession from Peter, who Jesus himself gave infallibility…

Matthew 16:18
18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it

Matthew 18:18
Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Thank you for asking … by the way!

Good thing that you clarified that this is not a logically sound argument. Indeed it is not. If the size and reach of a religion is the basis for defining whether it is true or not, then we should all be preparing to convert en masse to Islam pretty soon.

Please stop misrepresenting the Catholic Faith. That is not what the Catholic Church teaches. Please show us where the Church teaches that all infallibility rests on the Pope.


I know that. What I meant (and I believe said) was that no one HERE was saying that. I never made that argument. I realize OTHERS make that argument but I hadn’t and had no intention to. I understand how infallibility works in the Church, at least enough to know how to properly ask this question.

Thanks for the explanation. Actually, one contributor to the thread (ConstantineTG) has stated exactly that in another thread - just a heads up in case he tries to inject his misrepresentations into this thread. It seems it might go in that direction as he already started with the “all infallibility rests in the Pope” claim.


I understand all of that; at least the teaching of it. But, this doesn’t answer the question. The original question was about HOW the Catholic Church reconciles the problem that the tradition of the Orthodox Church says no tradition of infallibility ever existed.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to discuss all of the issues you brought up. However, I would suggest you spend some time really examining the actual teaching of the Church on papal infallibility because you have an incorrect theological understanding of it.

Thanks for the heads up!

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